Minnesota Cities Magazine
More from Sep-Oct 2019 issue

Ask LMC: Hazardous Buildings—What Can the City Do About Them?

Hazardous Property

Q: There is a dilapidated building in our city’s downtown area. Is there a process the city can use to get the building owner to fix the building’s problems?

LMC: State law provides a process for a city council to declare a building as hazardous and order the property owner to correct the conditions constituting the hazard. A hazardous building is defined as a structure or part of a structure “which because of inadequate maintenance, dilapidation, physical damage, unsanitary condition, or abandonment constitutes a fire hazard or a hazard to public safety or health.” A good first step for enforcement is to ask the property owner to voluntarily correct the hazardous condition. If the property owner is not responsive, the city may order the property owner to correct the hazardous condition and allow a reasonable time to do so. If the hazardous condition persists, the city may correct the hazardous condition by obtaining an enforcement order from the district court. Costs incurred by the city are charged to the property owner and may be collected as a special assessment. Courts have cautioned that hazardous buildings should be razed only in rare cases when the hazardous conditions cannot be corrected. Cities may adopt ordinances in this area as well, as long as they are not contrary to state law. For more information, see pages 22-30 of the LMC memo at www.lmc.org/hazard.

Answered by Research Attorney Kevin Toskey: ktoskey@lmc.org

Human Resources

Q: Does an employee have the right to a hearing before the city council prior to termination?

LMC: An employee who is considered to have a “property interest” in his or her job will generally have the right to receive a notice of the allegations and an opportunity to respond prior to final action on the termination. But that doesn’t always mean there has to be a hearing before the city council.

Employees may have a property interest due to protections like union membership or veteran status, or because of procedural or just-cause disciplinary requirements in the city’s employment policy.

When in doubt about whether an employee is entitled to a hearing, in most cases, it is a best practice to provide the hearing. The opportunity to respond can be met by having the decision-maker meet with the employee, listen to the employee’s response, and consider it before taking final action. Due process does not require that the employee have the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses.

Sometimes a city’s employment policy requires a meeting before the city council prior to termination. In Statutory Plan A cities, the council has authority to terminate employment, so due process can be handled at the same meeting.

The bottom line is that it’s critical for the city to follow its own policies regarding termination of employment. The city should also seek the help of its city attorney and the League before terminating an employee.

Answered by Human Resources Director Laura Kushner: lkushner@lmc.org

Safety

Q: Our city is about to start working with a contractor on a project involving excavation. We know Gopher State One Call needs to be contacted before digging begins. Who should contact them—the city or the contractor?

LMC: The contractor should do that. According to the Gopher State One Call (GSOC) Handbook, all Minnesota excavators are responsible for notifying GSOC of their proposed excavations. This allows facility operators with underground facilities near the excavation site to be informed of pending excavation. Anyone excavating in Minnesota must have a onecall ticket, which is generated when you call GSOC or submit a “locate” request online at www.gopherstateonecall.org. The general contractor’s ticket does not apply to subcontractors. Locate requests must be submitted at least 48 business hours before excavating. GSOC may be contacted up to 14 calendar days prior to beginning excavation to provide facility operators additional time to mark the area of proposed excavation. Access the GSOC Handbook at www.gopherstateonecall.org/about-gsoc/resources.

Answered by Loss Control Manager Rachel Carlson: rcarlson@lmc.org

Read the Sept-Oct issue of Minnesota Cities magazine

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